STRASBOURG/SARAJEVO, March 25 (FENA) – The Council of Europe has expressed concern over the rise in hate speech and hate crimes in many parts of Europe.
As Daniel Höltgen, Special Representative on antisemitic, anti-Muslim, and other forms of religious intolerance and hate crimes at the Council of Europe, said at an online press conference today, this is especially true of the online space where the line between freedom of speech and hate speech is thin.
He stressed that the laws governing the European Union are not being created in the Silicon Valley, alluding to large companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks that have recently faced accusations of creating an online space that enables hate speech and violence.
“Next year we plan to publish recommendations related to combating anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hate speech,” Höltgen stressed, adding that the phenomenon of hate speech against Muslims in cyberspace has not yet been sufficiently explored on what he and his office are currently working on.
In the context of the Special Representative’s mandate and the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, three distinguished personalities held short presentations.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, presented his latest report on anti-Muslim hatred.
In his report, Shaheed concluded that there has been an increase in the number of incidents motivated by hatred against Muslims.
“What is important to emphasize here is that it should be possible to criticize religion and religious principles, but without attacking individuals or inciting violence against religious groups because of their ideology,” Shaheed said.
He added that one of the groups that are the biggest victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes is women, especially in the virtual world.
Noémie Madar, President of the student association Union des Etudiants Juifs de France, also addressed the conference. In 2014, her organization had filed a lawsuit against illegal hate speech on Twitter.
“It cannot be emphasized enough that the law of the country in which you earn money should be respected. Big platforms like Twitter think they have their own laws. It is impossible to be a platform like Twitter and a big company and not respect the law of the country in which you make a profit,” said Madar.
Dr. Regina Polak presented her work as Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Discrimination.
She stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue in the fight against “intolerance, anti-Semitism, hatred against Muslims, Christians and other religious groups.”
“Although there is an evident decline in the number of people who are religious on the European continent, intolerance between certain religious groups is still problematic. It is very important that the inter-religious dialogue takes place between religious representatives, as well as between secular heads of state, officials, and the like,” Polak added.